On November 17th, 2023, the world was shocked when CEO Sam Altman was fired from his position at OpenAI while President Greg Brockman was released from his job at the Board. But in the subsequent month, it has come to light that there is more going on behind the scenes at OpenAI than originally thought, and both were reinstated just days later.
Read on to learn all about Sam Altman’s firing and what the future looks like for OpenAI.
What is OpenAI?
OpenAI is the tech company behind the development of many AI tools. Their most famous tool currently available is ChatGPT, though they have many more creations in progress. OpenAI is currently a non-profit research company, based in Delaware in the United States.
The current CEO of OpenAI is Sam Altman, and the company was able to begin work in 2015 thanks to a large angel investment of $1 billion from Microsoft.
Why Was Sam Altman Fired?
Ultimately, OpenAI states that Sam Altman was fired as CEO of OpenAI due to communication difficulties between himself and other members of the Board. While these “difficulties” may sound harmless, it turns out Sam Altman was maliciously pitting members of the board against other members through communication.
Much of this pitting came from the fact that AI technology is a touchy subject for everyone. The more AI tech that is released, the more jobs will be eliminated, and the more members of humanity may suffer to survive. Some members of the board favored a fast rollout to appease stakeholders, while others favored a slow rollout to protect those in industries that AI will take over.
As it turns out, Altman was on the side of a calculated, fast roll-out, which angered many of the other board members, resulting in his being released from the board on November 17th.
How Did OpenAI Staff React?
To the surprise of the Board (which supported and executed the firing of Sam Altman), many staff members at AI came together, saying they would quit if Altman weren’t given his position back.
This has created a lot of controversies, because many of these staff members weren’t at the brunt end of Altman’s orchestrations and malicious communication. All they see is that he is a nice guy, while not realizing he may have actually been the devil’s advocate in the Board room. Either way, as of the writing of this article, Altman is slated to return as the CEO of OpenAI, and many of the board members will be replaced with new board members as a result of the firing incident. Additionally, Microsoft will be given a non-voting seat on the OpenAI Board.
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What Happened with Greg Brockman?
It is unclear exactly what role board president Greg Brockman played in all of this, but the same day Altman was fired, Brockman was released as President of the Board, insinuating that one had to do with the other.
Brockman, unlike Altman, was allowed to retain his position at least, even though he was no longer part of the Board. But this wasn’t enough for Brockman, and he quit the same day anyway.
When the announcement came that Altman was returning to his position at OpenAI, Brockman also accepted his previous position once again. During the 5 days that Altman and Brockman were unemployed, the two of them were both hired to front an AI team at Microsoft before an arrangement was made for them to return to OpenAI. Whether or not getting hired by the competition helped his case is unclear, but Microsoft did receive a non-voting seat on the Board as a result of the negotiations.
The Future of OpenAI
Despite this firing and hiring snafu, the future of OpenAI looks bright, but the same can’t be said for humanity. Sure, AI technology is now being built into search engines, and being used to replace human workers, making life easier for humans. But in the same movement, it is making it easier for governments to spy on citizens and violate privacy laws, and many workers will eventually find themselves out of a job.
In May 2023, the main players in this article, in addition to another OpenAI Board member, Ilya Sutskever, released recommendations for the governance of AI in the future. While some of their recommendations were positive for keeping AI under control, they also wanted to give AI a lot of freedom to grow and were worried it would be over-regulated.
While we admire their propositions, we also noticed what OpenAI didn’t say, and that is the fact that they joined with Microsoft(their main backer), which is known for its widespread data mining and spying practices.
We do believe that OpenAI joining forces with Microsoft was a good business move for both companies, however, we don’t believe this was a good move for the rest of society.
The technology space is quickly becoming a monopoly, with Apple, Google, and Microsoft being the only players in the space. It was nice for a while that OpenAI was its own thing, especially because Elon Musk, who was once on the board, stepped down to focus on his own AI company xAI.
Throughout history, humans have always fared best with an open market and no one industry controlling any resource. But as the AI race continues, it does look as if we won’t have a choice at some point, especially if small AI and tech companies continue to be purchased by the Big 3.
All we can hope is that AI will be properly regulated when it truly begins to replace humans in society, and governments can use it for purposes other than spying. Of course, we don’t really trust the government to make the right decision, so while it may be regulated to protect people, we think the government will likely continue its current trajectory of further violating privacy laws. But until then, we will sit back and watch as the AI space continues to develop.
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